Prevent Linux firewalls interfering with Samba commands in a home network that uses broadcast NetBIOS name resolution

Or “How come devices in a home network can browse SMB shares but Linux Samba commands and Windows nbtstat commands do not work properly?”

Introduction

In a previous post I explained how it is possible to browse SMB shares when using broadcast NetBIOS name resolution in a home network consisting of machines running Linux, Windows and other operating systems. Browsing SMB/Samba shares will work as expected, but Samba commands such as ‘smbtree‘, ‘smbclient‘ and ‘nmblookup‘ will not work properly if the Linux machines use a firewall that has not been configured for broadcast NetBIOS name resolution. This post is to explain how to do that.

If broadcast NetBIOS name resolution is being used and none of the Linux machines has a firewall enabled, or if their firewalls have been correctly configured, the output of e.g. the ‘smbtree‘ command on one of those machines would look something like the example below.

anne@akhanaten:~$ smbtree
Enter anne's password: 
HOME
        \\AKHANATEN                     Samba 4.3.11-Ubuntu
                \\AKHANATEN\IPC$                IPC Service (Samba 4.3.11-Ubuntu)
                \\AKHANATEN\guest               guest account
                \\AKHANATEN\matthew             matthew share
                \\AKHANATEN\marilla             marilla share
                \\AKHANATEN\anne                anne share
        \\TUTANKHAMUN                   Samba 4.5.10
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Samsung_Xpress_C460FW     Samsung Xpress C460FW
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Canon_MP560_Printer       Canon PIXMA MP560
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Canon_MP510_Printer       Canon PIXMA MP510
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Virtual_PDF_Printer       Virtual PDF Printer
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\IPC$              IPC Service (Samba 4.2.11)
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Public
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\anne-share
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\print$
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\netlogon          Network Logon Service
        \\BTHUB5                        BT Home Hub 5.0A File Server
                \\BTHUB5\IPC$                   IPC Service (BT Home Hub 5.0A File Server)
        \\THUTMOSEIII                   Windows 10 computer

If Linux firewalls have not been correctly configured, the output would be missing some information about other machines in the network. For example, compare the output above with the output below from the same network, this time with the Linux firewalls configured using typical rules for Samba specified in Web articles, blog posts and forums.

anne@akhanaten:~$ smbtree
Enter anne's password: 
HOME
        \\AKHANATEN                     Samba 4.3.11-Ubuntu
                \\AKHANATEN\IPC$                IPC Service (Samba 4.3.11-Ubuntu)
                \\AKHANATEN\guest               guest account
                \\AKHANATEN\matthew             matthew share
                \\AKHANATEN\marilla             marilla share
                \\AKHANATEN\anne                anne share
        \\TUTANKHAMUN                   Samba 4.5.10
        \\BTHUB5                        BT Home Hub 5.0A File Server
        \\THUTMOSEIII                   Windows 10 computer

To avoid this problem you need to add a further Linux firewall rule to the set of rules usually used for Samba. Below I first list the usual firewall rules for Samba, then I give the additional rule necessary if using broadcast NetBIOS name resolution. In each case I give the applicable rules for a pure IPTABLES firewall and for UFW (Uncomplicated Firewall). The rules listed here assume the IP address range of the home network is 192.168.1.0/24, so change the range to suit the specific network.

Firewall rules typically specified for machines using Samba

IPTABLES

The rules listed below assume the machine uses interface eth0, so change the interface to suit the specific machine.

# NetBIOS Name Service (name resolution)
iptables -A INPUT -i eth0 -p udp --dport 137 -s 192.168.1.0/24 -j ACCEPT

# NetBIOS Datagram Service (BROWSER service)
iptables -A INPUT -i eth0 -p udp --dport 138 -s 192.168.1.0/24 -j ACCEPT

# NetBIOS Session Service (data transfer legacy SMB/NetBIOS/TCP)
iptables -A INPUT -i eth0 -p tcp --dport 139 -s 192.168.1.0/24 -j ACCEPT

# Microsoft Directory Service (data transfer SMB/TCP)
iptables -A INPUT -i eth0 -p tcp --dport 445 -s 192.168.1.0/24 -j ACCEPT

UFW

In some Linux distributions the ufw application allows a single command to add Samba support, such as:

user $ sudo ufw allow Samba

or

user $ sudo ufw allow CIFS

These ‘application profiles’ are specified in files in the directory /etc/ufw/applications.d/, so you could add application profiles or modify existing ones if you wish. In one of my installations the file /etc/ufw/applications.d/ufw-fileserver includes the following application profile for Samba, for example:

[CIFS]
title=SMB/CIFS server
description=SMB/CIFS server
ports=137,138/udp|139,445/tcp

If such an application profile does not exist in your installation, typical Samba rules can be added in UFW using the following two commands:

user $ sudo ufw allow from 192.168.1.0/24 to any port 137,138 proto udp
user $ sudo ufw allow from 192.168.1.0/24 to any port 139,445 proto tcp

The correct addition of the rules can be checked using the following command:

user $ sudo ufw status verbose
Password:
Status: active
Logging: on (low)
Default: deny (incoming), allow (outgoing), disabled (routed)
New profiles: skip

To                         Action      From
--                         ------      ----
137,138/udp (CIFS)         ALLOW IN    192.168.1.0/24
139,445/tcp (CIFS)         ALLOW IN    192.168.1.0/24

The extra rule required when using broadcast NetBIOS name resolution

The reason why an extra rule is required when using broadcast NetBIOS name resolution is because UFW (which is based on IPTABLES) is ‘stateful’, as is a purely IPTABLES firewall (unless explicitly configured not to be stateful). The firewall does not consider packets it receives in response to its broadcast to be ESTABLISHED or RELATED, and therefore drops those packets. So, despite the IPTABLES and UFW rules listed above including a rule to accept incoming UDP packets on Port 137, any UDP packets received on Port 137 that do not constitute a one-to-one, two-way communication flow are dropped by the firewall. The extra rule below overrules this and makes the firewall accept packets coming from other devices’ Port 137 in response to broadcast NetBIOS Name Service packets. To do this, the extra rule uses a CT (Connection Tracking) helper named ‘netbios-ns‘ (obviously meaning ‘NetBIOS Name Service’). In order to use this rule the kernel must have been configured to use the IPTABLES ‘raw‘ table and to use CT (see the section ‘Kernel configuration’ further on).

IPTABLES

# All NetBIOS clients must have the netbios-ns helper enabled for broadcast name resolution to work
iptables -t raw -A OUTPUT -p udp -m udp --dport 137 -j CT --helper netbios-ns

By the way, in addition to flushing the usual tables, flush the ‘raw‘ table too when you restart the firewall:

iptables -t raw -F OUTPUT

UFW

Add the following lines to the end of the file /etc/ufw/before.rules

# The following is needed to enable Samba commands to
# work properly for broadcast NetBIOS name resolution
#
# raw table rules
*raw
:OUTPUT ACCEPT [0:0]
-F OUTPUT
-A OUTPUT -p udp -m udp --dport 137 -j CT --helper netbios-ns
COMMIT

Note that the output of the command ‘ufw status verbose‘ will not include the above rule. This is not a bug.

Kernel configuration

If you are using a binary-based distribution such as Ubuntu Linux, the kernel will probably have been configured to include the needed modules (CONFIG_IP_NF_RAW=m, CONFIG_IP6_NF_RAW=m and CONFIG_NETFILTER_XT_TARGET_CT=m), and the installation configured to load the modules automatically. However, if you are using a source-based distribution such as Gentoo Linux make sure the kernel configuration includes these three options before you build the kernel, and also add the module names ‘iptable_raw‘ and ‘xt_CT‘ to the module list in the file /etc/conf.d/modules as shown in the example below, so that the modules are loaded at boot:

modules="r8169 nvidia agpgart fuse bnep rfcomm hidp uvcvideo cifs mmc_block rtsx_pci snd-seq-midi vboxdrv vboxnetadp vboxnetflt iptable_raw xt_CT"

You can use the following two commands to check if the two modules are loaded:

user $ sudo lsmod | grep iptable_raw
user $ sudo lsmod | grep xt_CT

How to check the additional rule is active

You can use the command below whether you are using pure IPTABLES or UFW.

user $ sudo iptables -nvL -t raw
Password: 
Chain PREROUTING (policy ACCEPT 2613 packets, 1115K bytes)
 pkts bytes target     prot opt in     out     source               destination         

Chain OUTPUT (policy ACCEPT 2773 packets, 475K bytes)
 pkts bytes target     prot opt in     out     source               destination         
   16  1248 CT         udp  --  *      *       0.0.0.0/0            0.0.0.0/0            udp dpt:137 CT helper netbios-ns

The packet and byte counts will increase whenever you use a Samba command.

Bibliography

  1. The netfilter.org "iptables" project
  2. Iptables Tutorial
  3. Introduction to IPTables
  4. Gentoo Wiki : iptables
  5. Arch Linux Wiki : Samba : "Browsing" network fails with "Failed to retrieve share list from server"
  6. Ubuntu : Manpage : ufw-framework
  7. Gentoo Wiki : UFW

A correct method of configuring Samba for browsing SMB shares in a home network

SMB
SMB (Server Message Block) is the underlying protocol that Microsoft Windows computers use to connect to resources, such as file shares and printers, and to transfer information when the connections are established. Samba is the Linux implementation of SMB that allows file and printer information to be transferred between Windows and Linux computers. An early variant of the SMB protocol is known as ‘CIFS’ (Common Internet File System). CIFS is actually obsolete, so the correct term to use these days is ‘SMB’ (see the blog post Why You Should Never Again Utter The Word, "CIFS"), although ‘CIFS’ is still used sometimes when referring to SMB.

Terminology
You are likely to come across several terms when reading about Samba, such as NetBIOS, Active Directory (AD), Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), Kerberos, Windows Internet Name Service (WINS) and Winbind, to name but a few. Most are used in larger corporate or enterprise networks but you can ignore most of them – only broadcast NetBIOS name resolution or WINS are necessary to configure Samba in small home networks. For example, my home network uses broadcast NetBIOS name resolution and sometimes has up to 15 devices connected (Linux, Windows 7/10, macOS, Android and iOS), all of which can browse file shares using SMB/Samba.

Note: You should not use Broadcast NetBIOS Name Resolution and WINS at the same time.

To explain the terminology – Active Directory is a central database of user accounts and passwords used primarily in Windows networks to authenticate users, and LDAP is the protocol that clients and servers use to access the Active Directory database. Kerberos is a separate encrypted authentication mechanism used for client-server applications, such as computers that access a specific file or web server, or SQL database. WINS is a mechanism for storing Windows computer name to IP address mappings on a central server – the WINS Server. Computers in a LAN interrogate the WINS server to obtain the IP addresses of other computers. It’s a bit like DNS except that the WINS Server stores Windows computer names rather than URLs or domain names. Winbind is a Unix/Linux mechanism that allows Windows NT accounts to look like a Unix service to Unix/Linux machines.

NetBIOS
How is NetBIOS relevant to Samba? Samba uses NetBIOS in three different ways:

  1. NetBIOS over UDP Port 137 to advertise Windows computer names for name to IP address resolution;

  2. NetBIOS over UDP Port 138 to advertise services that the computer offers and to elect a ‘Master Browser’ (explained below);

  3. SMB over NetBIOS over TCP/IP Port 139 to connect to file shares or printers. Once connected, the computers may negotiate using SMB direct over TCP/IP Port 445 to improve efficiency of the connection.

NetBIOS over UDP (Port 137) is a connectionless broadcast protocol that Windows machines use to advertise over the LAN their names and corresponding IP addresses. Other computers receive the broadcasts and cache the names and IP addresses in a name to IP address mapping table.

NetBIOS over UDP (Port 138) is a connectionless broadcast protocol that Windows machines use to advertise their eligibility to become the Master Browser or Backup Browser for a Windows Workgroup in the LAN. An automatic election process elects only one machine in a Workgroup to become the Master Browser for that workgroup, and elects one or more ‘Backup Browsers’ in the Workgroup. The Master Browser and Backup Browser(s) collate a list of all the computers in the Workgroup and the services that they offer. It is more efficient for a single computer to assume the master role and to collate the information than it is for the information to remain distributed. When you click on ‘Network’ in File Explorer’s ‘Network Neighbourhood’ window, your computer interrogates the Master Browser(s) to obtain a list of the Windows Workgroups in the LAN, the members of the Workgroup(s) and the file and printer services that each Workgroup member offers. If the Master Browser fails or is disconnected, a re-election takes place and a new Master Browser is elected from the list of Backup Browsers in that Workgroup. The same process occurs if you are using a Linux file manager (Dolphin in KDE, Nautilus in GNOME, etc.) with Samba. You can configure the ‘priority’ of the Samba server in each machine in the Workgroup so that it is either more likely or less likely to be elected the Master Browser for the Workgroup. You could even configure Samba on a Linux machine so that it will never be a Master Browser. (It is also possible to configure a Windows machine so that it will never be a Master Browser.)

     Renamed ‘Entire Network’ in some versions of Windows.
     Renamed ‘My Network Places’ or simply ‘Network’ in some versions of Windows.

SMB over NetBIOS over TCP/IP (Port 139) is a connection orientated protocol that Windows computers use to connect to file shares and printers, to retrieve directory listings and to transfer files. Having obtained a list of computers and file shares from the Master Browser, if you click on a particular file share to connect to it, your computer looks up the name of the target computer in the local name table, obtains the target computer’s IP address and initiates a SMB over NetBIOS over TCP/IP connection to it. The target computer then issues a username and password prompt for you to complete the connection. If authentication is successful, the SMB protocol is used to transfer a directory listing of the contents of the share. If you drag and drop a file from the share to your local machine, or vice-versa, SMB is used to transfer the file. Behind the scenes, during the initial connection set-up, your computer and the target carry out a negotiation. If both machines support SMB direct over TCP/IP, the directory listing and subsequent file transfer are transported using SMB over TCP/IP Port 445. This is much more efficient because it eliminates completely the NetBIOS overhead.

When you install and configure Samba on a Linux computer, the ‘smbd‘ and ‘nmbd‘ daemons enable all of the functionality above. In a small network you do not need to enable or use AD, LDAP, Kerberos, WINS, Winbind or anything else for that matter. Samba and its built-in NetBIOS mechanisms will allow you to participate in a Windows Workgroup environment to share and use folders, files and printers.

Workgroups
The majority of Windows computers running in home networks are configured, by default, in a single Workgroup. A Workgroup is a simple way for computers in small networks to advertise and share resources, such as folders and printers, with other members of the same group. You can configure multiple Workgroups in the same LAN but each computer can belong to only one Workgroup. The theory is that different computers can share different resources within their group.

Please Note: A Windows Workgroup is not the same thing as a Windows HomeGroup. The latter concept was introduced in Windows 7 and is an ‘evolution’ of the Workgroup concept, in which you share folders and files but specify a pre-determined group password. All computers wishing to join the HomeGroup specify the same password to connect to the resources in that group. Samba does not participate in Windows HomeGroups because the latter is a Windows-only feature.

Configuring Samba
Firstly, install Samba on the Linux computer. Use Samba 4 and avoid Samba 3, which is obsolete. I have several laptops and a Network Addressable Storage (NAS) server, all running Linux with various releases of Samba 4. I also have a desktop computer running Windows 10 for family use. In addition, family and friends connect various laptops running Windows 7 and Windows 10 to my home network, as well as tablets and smartphones (see How to Access Shared Windows Folders on Android, iPad, and iPhone). This NAS runs 24/7 so I could have configured Samba to always make it the Master Browser but this is not necessary as the remaining computers in the network will elect a new Master Browser should the NAS fail.

Below is a summary of the steps to configure Samba in a Windows Workgroup:

  1. Configure the same Workgroup name on all of the Windows computers (for example, How to Change Workgroup in Windows 10). The default Windows 10 Workgroup is called ‘WORKGROUP‘. In the example further down I used the Windows GUI to change the Workgroup name to ‘GREENGABLES‘. There is plenty of information on the Internet about how to configure Windows file sharing so I won’t repeat any of it here (for example, How to Enable Network Discovery and Configure Sharing Options in Windows 10 and How to set up file sharing on Windows 10 (Share files using File Explorer)).

  2. Configure Samba on the Linux machines by editing the file ‘/etc/samba/smb.conf‘ on each. The contents of the file ‘smb.conf‘ are shown below for a Linux NAS and two Linux laptops. The NetBIOS name of the NAS is ‘akhanaten‘ and the laptops are ‘tutankhamun‘ and ‘smenkhkare‘. You can use either of the smb.conf files of the two laptops as a template for the smb.conf file of any Linux computer in your own home network. You can ignore the smb.conf file of the NAS if you simply want to be able to browse SMB/Samba shares on other computers in your home network.

  3. Use the command ‘pdbedit‘ on each Linux machine to define and configure the Samba users on that machine. The command ‘smbpasswd‘ is an alternative to ‘pdbedit‘ but I recommend you use the latter, as ‘smbpasswd‘ is deprecated. Each Samba user must exist as a Linux user because it is the Linux users who own the shares and are used for authentication.

  4. The NAS has Linux users ‘anne‘, ‘marilla‘, ‘matthew‘ and ‘guest‘, whereas each of the laptops has a Linux user ‘anne‘. The user name does not have to be the same on different computers.

  5. The purpose of each variable in ‘smb.conf‘ is explained on the applicable Samba manual page (enter the command ‘man smb.conf‘ in a terminal window) and the Samba documentation page for smb.conf on the Web.

Furthermore, make sure the Winbind daemon is not running. If Winbind is installed, make sure the service is not running and is disabled.

smb.conf of NAS running Ubuntu Server Edition:

[global]
# SMB uses ports 139 & 445, as explained in this blog post
smb ports = 139 445
netbios name = akhanaten
workgroup = greengables

# Use either NetBIOS broadcast for name resolution or entries in the /etc/hosts file
name resolve order = bcast host

# Don't care if the workgroup name is upper or lower case
case sensitive = no

# User authentication is used to access the shares
security = user
map to guest = bad user
guest account = guest

# Don't allow the use of root for network shares
invalid users = root

# Domain master only applies to LANs that are inter-connected across a WAN
domain master = no

# This machine is eligible to be a Master Browser and its priority is 4
# (the higher the os level, the more preferred to be Master Browser)
# (the maximum allowable value for os level is 255)
preferred master = yes
os level = 4
dns proxy = no

# Always advertise the shares automatically
auto services = global

# Interfaces on which to listen for NetBIOS broadcasts and to allow SMB connections
# Include "lo" because it is the internal interface
# em1 is the name of the Ethernet interface, found using the ifconfig command
interfaces = lo em1
bind interfaces only = yes
log file = /var/log/samba/log.%m
max log size = 1000
syslog = 0

panic action = /usr/share/samba/panic-action %d
server role = standalone server
passdb backend = tdbsam
obey pam restrictions = yes

# Don't synchronise the Linux and Samba user passwords - they can be different
unix password sync = no
passwd program = /usr/bin/passwd %u
passwd chat = *Enter\snew\s*\spassword:* %n\n *Retype\snew\s*\spassword:* %n\n *password\supdated\ssuccessfully* .
pam password change = yes

# This Samba configuration does not advertise any printers
load printers = no

# File to map long usernames to shorter Unix usernames, if necessary
username map = /etc/samba/smbusers

# Allow guest user access if specified in the shares
guest ok = yes

# First user share is called "anne" - only user "anne" specified below can connect to the share
[anne]
comment = "anne share"
path = /nas/shares/anne
writeable = yes
valid users = anne

# Second user share is called "marilla" - only user "marilla" specified below can connect to the share
[marilla]
comment = "marilla share"
path = /nas/shares/marilla
writeable = yes
valid users = marilla

# Third user share is called "matthew" - only user "matthew" specified below can connect to the share
[matthew]
comment = "matthew share"
path = /nas/shares/matthew
writeable = yes
valid users = matthew

# Fourth user share is called "guest" - any user can connect to the share
[guest]
comment = "guest account"
path = /nas/shares/guest
writeable = yes
guest ok = yes
valid users = guest anne marilla matthew

smb.conf of laptop #1 running Gentoo Linux:

[global]
;no need to specify 'smb ports' as ports 139 & 445 used by default
workgroup = GREENGABLES
netbios name = tutankhamun
case sensitive = no
browseable = yes

;If this machine becomes a Master Browser, the following parameter allows it to hold the browse list
browse list = yes

printcap name = cups
printing = cups

log file = /var/log/samba/log.%m
max log size = 50

security = user
map to guest = bad user

encrypt passwords = yes
passdb backend = tdbsam

domain master = no
local master = yes
preferred master = yes
; os level = 6 on the other laptop, so I have made it 5 on this laptop.
os level = 5
name resolve order = bcast
wins support = no
dns proxy = no

;Listen for NetBIOS on Ethernet and Wireless interfaces
;Names of the interfaces found using ifconfig command
interfaces = enp4s0f1 wlp3s0

[netlogon]
comment = Network Logon Service
path = /var/lib/samba/netlogon
guest ok = yes

[printers]
comment = All Printers
path = /var/spool/samba
guest ok = yes
printable = yes
create mask = 0700

[print$]
path = /var/lib/samba/printers
write list = @adm root
guest ok = yes

[anne-share]
path = /home/anne/anne-share/
guest ok = yes
;read only = no
writeable = yes
browseable = yes
valid users = anne

[Public]
path = /home/anne/Public/
guest ok = yes
;read only = no
writeable = yes
browseable = yes

smb.conf of laptop #2 running Gentoo Linux:

[global]
;no need to specify 'smb ports' as ports 139 & 445 used by default
workgroup = GREENGABLES
netbios name = smenkhkare
case sensitive = no
browseable = yes

;If this machine becomes a Master Browser, the following parameter allows it to hold the browse list
browse list = yes

printcap name = cups
printing = cups

log file = /var/log/samba/log.%m
max log size = 50

security = user
map to guest = bad user

encrypt passwords = yes
passdb backend = tdbsam

domain master = no
local master = yes
preferred master = yes
; os level = 5 on the other laptop so I have made it 6 on this laptop
os level = 6
name resolve order = bcast
wins support = no
dns proxy = no

;Listen for NetBIOS on Ethernet and Wireless interfaces
;Names of the interfaces found using ifconfig command
interfaces = eth0 wlan0

[netlogon]
comment = Network Logon Service
path = /var/lib/samba/netlogon
guest ok = yes

[printers]
comment = All Printers
path = /var/spool/samba
guest ok = yes
printable = yes
create mask = 0700

[print$]
path = /var/lib/samba/printers
write list = @adm root
guest ok = yes

[anne-share]
path = /home/anne/share-share/
guest ok = yes
;read only = no
writeable = yes
browseable = yes
valid users = anne

[Public]
path = /home/anne/Public/
guest ok = yes
;read only = no
writeable = yes
browseable = yes

Samba Commands
The following are Samba commands you can use on any of the Linux computers to find information on the Samba shares.

The ‘smbtree‘ command lists the computers currently using SMB in the local network:

user $ smbtree
GREENGABLES
        \\AKHANATEN                     Samba 4.3.11-Ubuntu
                \\AKHANATEN\IPC$                IPC Service (Samba 4.3.11-Ubuntu)
                \\AKHANATEN\guest               guest account
                \\AKHANATEN\matthew             matthew share
                \\AKHANATEN\marilla             marilla share
                \\AKHANATEN\anne                anne share
        \\SMENKHKARE                    Samba 4.2.14
                \\SMENKHKARE\Samsung_CLX-8385ND Samsung CLX-8385ND
                \\SMENKHKARE\Canon_MP510_Printer        Canon MP510 Printer
                \\SMENKHKARE\Virtual_PDF_Printer        Virtual PDF Printer
                \\SMENKHKARE\Canon_MP560_WiFi   Canon MP560 WiFi
                \\SMENKHKARE\IPC$               IPC Service (Samba 4.2.14)
                \\SMENKHKARE\Public         
                \\SMENKHKARE\anne-share     
                \\SMENKHKARE\print$         
                \\SMENKHKARE\netlogon           Network Logon Service
        \\TUTANKHAMUN                   Samba 4.2.11
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Samsung_Xpress_C460FW     Samsung Xpress C460FW
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Canon_MP560_Printer       Canon PIXMA MP560
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Canon_MP510_Printer       Canon PIXMA MP510
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Virtual_PDF_Printer       Virtual PDF Printer
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\IPC$              IPC Service (Samba 4.2.11)
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Public
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\anne-share
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\print$
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\netlogon          Network Logon Service
HOME
        \\BTHUB5                        BT Home Hub 5.0A File Server
                \\BTHUB5\IPC$                   IPC Service (BT Home Hub 5.0A File Server)

BTHUB5‘ is a BT Home Hub 5 (a network router and broadband modem). Notice that it is configured by default to be in a Windows Workgroup named ‘HOME‘. The BT Home Hub 5 has a USB port to which an external USB HDD could be attached, so I assume computers in the home network could have been configured to use the HOME Workgroup instead of GREENGABLES and hence access that USB HDD, i.e. use it as a NAS. However, no HDD is attached to the BT Home Hub 5, so just ignore the BTHUB5 device and the HOME Workgroup.

The ‘nmblookup‘ command is used to see which services each computer offers. The strings ‘..__MSBROWSE__.‘ and ‘<1d>‘ in the output indicate that the computer is currently the Master Browser (see the Microsoft TechNet article NetBIOS Over TCP/IP for details):

user $ nmblookup akhanaten
192.168.1.70 akhanaten<00>

user $ nmblookup -A 192.168.1.70
Looking up status of 192.168.1.70
        AKHANATEN       <00> -         B <ACTIVE>
        AKHANATEN       <03> -         B <ACTIVE>
        AKHANATEN       <20> -         B <ACTIVE>
        GREENGABLES     <00> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>
        GREENGABLES     <1e> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>

        MAC Address = 00-00-00-00-00-00

user $ nmblookup tutankhamun
192.168.1.79 tutankhamun<00>

user $ nmblookup -A 192.168.1.79
Looking up status of 192.168.1.79
        TUTANKHAMUN     <00> -         B <ACTIVE>
        TUTANKHAMUN     <03> -         B <ACTIVE>
        TUTANKHAMUN     <20> -         B <ACTIVE>
        GREENGABLES     <00> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>
        GREENGABLES     <1e> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>

        MAC Address = 00-00-00-00-00-00

user $ nmblookup smenkhkare
192.168.1.90 smenkhkare<00>

user $ nmblookup -A 192.168.1.90
Looking up status of 192.168.1.90
        SMENKHKARE      <00> -         B <ACTIVE>
        SMENKHKARE      <03> -         B <ACTIVE>
        SMENKHKARE      <20> -         B <ACTIVE>
        ..__MSBROWSE__. <01> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE> 
        GREENGABLES     <00> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>
        GREENGABLES     <1d> -         B <ACTIVE>
        GREENGABLES     <1e> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>

        MAC Address = 00-00-00-00-00-00

..__MSBROWSE__.‘ and ‘<1d>‘ in the above output indicates that the laptop named smenkhkare is currently the Master Browser of the Workgroup named GREENGABLES. See the Microsoft TechNet article NetBIOS Over TCP/IP to interpret the output.

Now let’s look at what happens when thutmoseiii, the Windows 10 desktop connected to this home network, is powered up:

user $ smbtree
GREENGABLES
        \\AKHANATEN                     Samba 4.3.11-Ubuntu
                \\AKHANATEN\IPC$                IPC Service (Samba 4.3.11-Ubuntu)
                \\AKHANATEN\guest               guest account
                \\AKHANATEN\matthew             matthew share
                \\AKHANATEN\marilla             marilla share
                \\AKHANATEN\anne                anne share
        \\SMENKHKARE                    Samba 4.2.14
                \\SMENKHKARE\Samsung_CLX-8385ND Samsung CLX-8385ND
                \\SMENKHKARE\Canon_MP510_Printer        Canon MP510 Printer
                \\SMENKHKARE\Virtual_PDF_Printer        Virtual PDF Printer
                \\SMENKHKARE\Canon_MP560_WiFi   Canon MP560 WiFi
                \\SMENKHKARE\IPC$               IPC Service (Samba 4.2.14)
                \\SMENKHKARE\Public
                \\SMENKHKARE\anne-share
                \\SMENKHKARE\print$
                \\SMENKHKARE\netlogon           Network Logon Service
        \\TUTANKHAMUN                   Samba 4.2.11
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Samsung_Xpress_C460FW     Samsung Xpress C460FW
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Canon_MP560_Printer       Canon PIXMA MP560
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Canon_MP510_Printer       Canon PIXMA MP510
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Virtual_PDF_Printer       Virtual PDF Printer
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\IPC$              IPC Service (Samba 4.2.11)
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Public
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\anne-share
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\print$
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\netlogon          Network Logon Service
        \\THUTMOSEIII                   Lounge Computer
HOME
        \\BTHUB5                        BT Home Hub 5.0A File Server
                \\BTHUB5\IPC$                   IPC Service (BT Home Hub 5.0A File Server)

user $ nmblookup thutmoseiii
192.168.1.74 thutmoseiii<00>
192.168.56.1 thutmoseiii<00>

user $ nmblookup -A 192.168.1.74
Looking up status of 192.168.1.74
        THUTMOSEIII     <20> -         B <ACTIVE> 
        THUTMOSEIII     <00> -         B <ACTIVE> 
        GREENGABLES     <00> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE> 
        GREENGABLES     <1e> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE> 

        MAC Address = AA-BB-CC-DD-EE-FF (anonymised by me)

So Linux computer smenkhkare remained the Master Browser. This is because the Windows 10 computer has its Registry subkey HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Browser\Parameters\MaintainServerList set to ‘Auto‘, and also there is no subkey \HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Browser\Parameters\IsDomainMaster so implicitly its value is False (i.e. the computer is not a Preferred Master Browser). See Microsoft TechNet article Specifying Browser Computers for details.

By the way, notice that two IP addresses are listed for thutmoseiii. This is because thutmoseiii is connected to two network adapters: 192.168.1.74 is the IP address of thutmoseiii in the home network, and 192.168.56.1 is the IP address of the virtual network interface for the virtual computers in VirtualBox installed on thutmoseiii.

If the Samba service on smenkhkare is now stopped from the command line, Windows 10 computer thutmoseiii is elected Master Browser after more than a minute has elapsed:

user $ nmblookup -A 192.168.1.74
Looking up status of 192.168.1.74
        THUTMOSEIII     <20> -         B <ACTIVE> 
        THUTMOSEIII     <00> -         B <ACTIVE> 
        GREENGABLES     <00> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE> 
        GREENGABLES     <1e> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE> 
        GREENGABLES     <1d> -         B <ACTIVE> 
        ..__MSBROWSE__. <01> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>

        MAC Address = AA-BB-CC-DD-EE-FF (anonymised by me)

If the Samba service on smenkhkare is then restarted from the command line and the Windows 10 computer is allowed to go to sleep, the laptop named smenkhkare becomes the Master Brower again as expected.

NetBIOS Commands in Windows
Now let’s look at some NetBIOS equivalent commands on the Windows 10 computer (Windows computer name: thutmoseiii).

First let’s see which remote computers thutmoseiii detects:

C:\WINDOWS\system32>nbtstat -c

VirtualBox Host-Only Network 2:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.56.1] Scope Id: []

    No names in cache

Ethernet:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.1.74] Scope Id: []

                  NetBIOS Remote Cache Name Table

        Name              Type       Host Address    Life [sec]
    ------------------------------------------------------------
    AKHANATEN      <20>  UNIQUE          192.168.1.70        381
    TUTANKHAMUN    <20>  UNIQUE          192.168.1.79        407
    SMENKHKARE     <20>  UNIQUE          192.168.1.90        416

WiFi:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    No names in cache

Local Area Connection* 11:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    No names in cache

Four adapters are listed in the above output: ‘VirtualBox Host-Only Network 2‘, ‘Ethernet‘, ‘WiFi‘ and ‘Local Area Connection* 11‘. Let’s look at why they are listed:

  • The first adapter listed exists because VirtualBox is installed on thutmoseiii and has a virtual network adapter to enable virtual computers to be networked together (see What Is A Oracle VM VirtualBox Host-Only Network Adapter? if you don’t know what is a VirtualBox Host-Only Network Adapter).

  • The second adapter listed is the computer’s Ethernet adapter. thutmoseiii is connected to the home network via this interface, and the above output shows that thutmoseiii has correctly detected the three other computers connected to the home network.

  • The third adapter listed is the computer’s wireless adapter. thutmoseiii also has a Wi-Fi interface, currently disabled in Windows, hence no active wireless connection is listed.

  • The fourth adapter is a ‘Microsoft Wi-Fi Direct Virtual Adapter’ according to the output of the ipconfig/all command. As the Wi-Fi interface is currently disabled in Windows, no active connection is listed here either.

Now let’s see what thutmoseiii reports about itself:

C:\WINDOWS\system32>nbtstat -n

VirtualBox Host-Only Network 2:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.56.1] Scope Id: []

                NetBIOS Local Name Table

       Name               Type         Status
    ---------------------------------------------
    THUTMOSEIII    <20>  UNIQUE      Registered
    THUTMOSEIII    <00>  UNIQUE      Registered
    GREENGABLES    <00>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1E>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1D>  UNIQUE      Registered
    ☺☻__MSBROWSE__☻<01>  GROUP       Registered

Ethernet:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.1.74] Scope Id: []

                NetBIOS Local Name Table

       Name               Type         Status
    ---------------------------------------------
    THUTMOSEIII    <20>  UNIQUE      Registered
    THUTMOSEIII    <00>  UNIQUE      Registered
    GREENGABLES    <00>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1E>  GROUP       Registered

WiFi:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    No names in cache

Local Area Connection* 11:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    No names in cache

The above is correct: thutmoseiii is the Master Browser in the Windows Workgroup of VirtualBox Host-Only Network 2, but not a Master Browser in the GREENGABLES Workgroup to which thutmoseiii is connected by Ethernet cable. As the Wi-Fi interface in thutmoseiii is currently disabled, no active wireless connection is listed.

Now let’s take a look at what thutmoseiii reports about akhanaten:

C:\WINDOWS\system32>nbtstat -a akhanaten

VirtualBox Host-Only Network 2:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.56.1] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

Ethernet:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.1.74] Scope Id: []

           NetBIOS Remote Machine Name Table

       Name               Type         Status
    ---------------------------------------------
    AKHANATEN      <00>  UNIQUE      Registered
    AKHANATEN      <03>  UNIQUE      Registered
    AKHANATEN      <20>  UNIQUE      Registered
    GREENGABLES    <00>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1E>  GROUP       Registered

    MAC Address = 00-00-00-00-00-00


WiFi:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

Local Area Connection* 11:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

The above is also correct, as akhanaten is indeed not a Master Browser.

Now let’s have a look at what thutmoseiii reports about tutankhamun:

C:\WINDOWS\system32>nbtstat -a tutankhamun

VirtualBox Host-Only Network 2:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.56.1] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

Ethernet:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.1.74] Scope Id: []

           NetBIOS Remote Machine Name Table

       Name               Type         Status
    ---------------------------------------------
    TUTANKHAMUN    <00>  UNIQUE      Registered
    TUTANKHAMUN    <03>  UNIQUE      Registered
    TUTANKHAMUN    <20>  UNIQUE      Registered
    GREENGABLES    <00>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1E>  GROUP       Registered

    MAC Address = 00-00-00-00-00-00


WiFi:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

Local Area Connection* 11:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

The above is also correct, as tutankhamun is indeed not a Master Browser.

Now let’s have a look at what thutmoseiii reports about smenkhkare:

C:\WINDOWS\system32>nbtstat -a smenkhkare

VirtualBox Host-Only Network 2:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.56.1] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

Ethernet:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.1.74] Scope Id: []

           NetBIOS Remote Machine Name Table

       Name               Type         Status
    ---------------------------------------------
    SMENKHKARE     <00>  UNIQUE      Registered
    SMENKHKARE     <03>  UNIQUE      Registered
    SMENKHKARE     <20>  UNIQUE      Registered
    ☺☻__MSBROWSE__☻<01>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <00>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1D>  UNIQUE      Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1E>  GROUP       Registered

    MAC Address = 00-00-00-00-00-00


WiFi:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

Local Area Connection* 11:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

The above is also correct, as smenkhkare is indeed the Master Browser (notice the ‘☺☻__MSBROWSE__☻‘ and ‘<1D>‘).

Q.E.D.
So there you have it; Browser Elections take place and the Master Browser is any one of the Linux or Windows computers in the home network, thus enabling SMB browsing to take place. No WINS, no LDAP, no AD, no Kerberos. All SMB communication is carried out using NetBIOS over TCP/IP and Broadcast NetBIOS Name Resolution, as shown by the output of the command ‘nbtstat -r‘ on thutmoseiii:

C:\WINDOWS\system32>nbtstat -r

    NetBIOS Names Resolution and Registration Statistics
    ----------------------------------------------------

    Resolved By Broadcast     = 65
    Resolved By Name Server   = 0

    Registered By Broadcast   = 233
    Registered By Name Server = 0

    NetBIOS Names Resolved By Broadcast
---------------------------------------------
           BTHUB5         <00>
           呂啈㕂†††††䱃噅坏㌲匰⁓†
           TUTANKHAMUN    <00>
           AKHANATEN      <00>
           SMENKHKARE     <00>

I assume the line of Chinese and other characters is because of some deficiency in NBTSTAT.EXE, CMD.EXE or Windows 10 generally — despite having entered ‘CHCP 65001‘ and chosen a Unicode TrueType font in CMD.EXE — but the important point is that the statistics listed by the ‘nbtstat -r‘ command clearly show that only broadcasts are used for NetBIOS Name resolution, as promised. NetBIOS name resolution works fine in the home network and all the sharing-enabled computers in the home network can browse SMB shares on other sharing-enabled computers, whether they are running Windows, Linux, macOS, Android or iOS. I reiterate that this is for a typical home network.

Command to find Master Browsers
In Linux you can use the ‘nmblookup‘ command as follows to find out which machine in the home network is currently the Master Browser in each Workgroup:

user $ nmblookup -M -- -
192.168.1.254 __MSBROWSE__
192.168.1.90 __MSBROWSE__
192.168.56.1 __MSBROWSE__

You can see above that there are currently three Master Browsers in this home network. Let’s check the details for these three Master Browsers:

user $ nmblookup -A 192.168.1.254
Looking up status of 192.168.1.254
        BTHUB5          <00> -         B <ACTIVE>
        BTHUB5          <03> -         B <ACTIVE>
        BTHUB5          <20> -         B <ACTIVE>
        ..__MSBROWSE__. <01> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>
        HOME            <1d> -         B <ACTIVE>
        HOME            <1e> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>
        HOME            <00> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>

        MAC Address = 00-00-00-00-00-00

You can see above that the machine BTHUB5 (which is actually the home network’s router) is the Master Browser in the Workgroup named HOME (see earlier).

user $ nmblookup -A 192.168.1.90
Looking up status of 192.168.1.90
        SMENKHKARE      <00> -         B <ACTIVE>
        SMENKHKARE      <03> -         B <ACTIVE>
        SMENKHKARE      <20> -         B <ACTIVE>
        ..__MSBROWSE__. <01> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>
        GREENGABLES     <00> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>
        GREENGABLES     <1d> -         B <ACTIVE>
        GREENGABLES     <1e> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>

        MAC Address = 00-00-00-00-00-00

You can see above that computer SMENKHKARE is currently the Master Browser in the Workgroup named GREENGABLES.

user $ nmblookup -A 192.168.56.1
Looking up status of 192.168.56.1
No reply from 192.168.56.1

You can see above that the network node 192.168.56.1 is inactive, which is not surprising considering that it is a node on a VirtualBox virtual subnet on the Windows 10 computer thutmoseiii (see earlier) and VirtualBox is not running at the moment on that computer.

On a Windows machine it is not quite so easy to find out which machines are currently Master Browsers. However, on the face of it the third-party utility lanscan.exe can do it (see How to Determine the Master Browser in a Windows Workgroup):

C:\WINDOWS\system32>lanscan

LANscanner v1.67 - ScottiesTech.Info

Scanning LAN...

Scanning workgroup: HOME...

Scanning workgroup: GREENGABLES...

BTHUB5            192.168.1.254    11-11-11-11-11-11  HOME         MASTER
THUTMOSEIII       192.168.56.1     22-22-22-22-22-22  GREENGABLES  MASTER
SMENKHKARE        192.168.1.90     aa-bb-cc-dd-ee-ff  GREENGABLES  MASTER
TUTANKHAMUN       192.168.1.79     33-33-33-33-33-33  GREENGABLES
AKHANATEN         192.168.1.70     55-55-55-55-55-55  GREENGABLES

Press any key to exit...

(MAC addresses anonymised by me.)

Notice above that lanscan.exe listed the VirtualBox virtual subnet node 192.168.56.1 in Windows 10 computer thutmoseiii (see earlier) but omitted to list the node 192.168.1.74 (also thutmoseiii) in the real network. Now, in this particular case thutmoseiii on 192.168.1.74 is not a Master Browser. Nevertheless, as lanscan.exe is supposed to list all nodes, its failure to list the node 192.168.1.74 is a shortcoming.

And what happens if thutmoseiii on node 192.168.1.74 becomes a Master Browser? In that case lanscan.exe still omits the node from the list and, in addition, wrongly shows tutankhamun as a Master Browser:

C:\WINDOWS\system32>nbtstat -n

VirtualBox Host-Only Network 2:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.56.1] Scope Id: []

                NetBIOS Local Name Table

       Name               Type         Status
    ---------------------------------------------
    THUTMOSEIII    <20>  UNIQUE      Registered
    THUTMOSEIII    <00>  UNIQUE      Registered
    GREENGABLES    <00>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1E>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1D>  UNIQUE      Registered
    ☺☻__MSBROWSE__☻<01>  GROUP       Registered

Ethernet:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.1.74] Scope Id: []

                NetBIOS Local Name Table

       Name               Type         Status
    ---------------------------------------------
    THUTMOSEIII    <20>  UNIQUE      Registered
    THUTMOSEIII    <00>  UNIQUE      Registered
    GREENGABLES    <00>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1E>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1D>  UNIQUE      Registered
    ☺☻__MSBROWSE__☻<01>  GROUP       Registered

WiFi:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    No names in cache

Local Area Connection* 11:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    No names in cache

C:\WINDOWS\system32>nbtstat -A 192.168.1.79

VirtualBox Host-Only Network 2:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.56.1] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

Ethernet:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.1.74] Scope Id: []

           NetBIOS Remote Machine Name Table

       Name               Type         Status
    ---------------------------------------------
    TUTANKHAMUN    <00>  UNIQUE      Registered
    TUTANKHAMUN    <03>  UNIQUE      Registered
    TUTANKHAMUN    <20>  UNIQUE      Registered
    GREENGABLES    <00>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1E>  GROUP       Registered

    MAC Address = 00-00-00-00-00-00


WiFi:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

Local Area Connection* 11:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

C:\WINDOWS\system32>lanscan

LANscanner v1.67 - ScottiesTech.Info

Scanning LAN...

Scanning workgroup: HOME...

Scanning workgroup: GREENGABLES...

BTHUB5            192.168.1.254    11-11-11-11-11-11  HOME         MASTER
THUTMOSEIII       192.168.56.1     22-22-22-22-22-22  GREENGABLES  MASTER
TUTANKHAMUN       192.168.1.79     33-33-33-33-33-33  GREENGABLES  MASTER
SMENKHKARE        192.168.1.90     aa-bb-cc-dd-ee-ff  GREENGABLES
AKHANATEN         192.168.1.70     55-55-55-55-55-55  GREENGABLES

Press any key to exit...

(MAC addresses anonymised by me.)

Linux appears to have the edge on Windows in this respect, as the Samba command ‘nmblookup -M -- -‘ detects all the Master Browsers correctly in the above situation:

user $ nmblookup -M -- -
192.168.1.254 __MSBROWSE__
192.168.1.74 __MSBROWSE__
192.168.56.1 __MSBROWSE__

So it appears that, from a Windows computer, the only sure way to find all Master Browsers is to use the command ‘nbtstat -a <computer name>‘ to check each remote machine in the home network, plus the command ‘nbtstat -n‘ to check the Windows computer you are using.

Footnote
The ebuild of the current Gentoo Stable Branch package net-fs/samba-4.2.11 (and probably the ebuild of the Testing Branch package net-fs/samba-4.2.14 as well) is not entirely correct, as it pulls in unnecessary dependencies (see Gentoo Bug Report No. 579088 – net-fs/samba-4.x has many hard dependencies, make some optional). For example, Kerberos is not required at all if you are not using LDAP, AD, etc. and are just using NETBIOS Name Resolution by Broadcast in a Windows Workgroup (like most home users). However, the Gentoo samba ebuild forces the user to install Kerberos (either the MIT implementation app-crypt/mit-krb5 or the Heimdal implementation app-crypt/heimdal) even if you specify that Samba should be built without support for LDAP, AD, etc. This does not cause any harm, but it is unnecessary.

user $ eix -I samba
[I] net-fs/samba
     Available versions:  3.6.25^t 4.2.11 ~4.2.14 [M]~4.3.11 [M]~4.4.5 [M]~4.4.6 [M]~4.5.0 {acl addc addns ads (+)aio avahi caps (+)client cluster cups debug dmapi doc examples fam gnutls iprint ldap ldb +netapi pam quota +readline selinux +server +smbclient smbsharemodes swat syslog +system-mitkrb5 systemd test (+)winbind zeroconf ABI_MIPS="n32 n64 o32" ABI_PPC="32 64" ABI_S390="32 64" ABI_X86="32 64 x32" PYTHON_TARGETS="python2_7"}
     Installed versions:  4.2.11(19:40:03 16/09/16)(avahi client cups fam gnutls pam -acl -addc -addns -ads -aio -cluster -dmapi -iprint -ldap -quota -selinux -syslog -system-mitkrb5 -systemd -test -winbind ABI_MIPS="-n32 -n64 -o32" ABI_PPC="-32 -64" ABI_S390="-32 -64" ABI_X86="64 -32 -x32" PYTHON_TARGETS="python2_7")
     Homepage:            http://www.samba.org/
     Description:         Samba Suite Version 4

If you are a Gentoo Linux user, you can merge the package net-fs/samba with the same USE flags shown above (obviously change “-systemd” to “systemd” if you use systemd instead of OpenRC), and use the laptops’ smb.conf files shown in this post as templates, and you will be able to share files and printers using Samba and NetBIOS name resolution. Don’t forget to use pdbedit to define the Samba users, and don’t forget to stop and disable winbindd if it is already installed.

Further reading

ADDENDUM (October 30, 2016): You probably already use the Public folder in Windows. If not, you can find a brief explanation in the article Simple Questions: What is the Public Folder & How to Use it?. There are a number of default sub-folders in C:\Users\Public\ on a Windows machine. There are some differences depending on the version of Windows, but in Windows 10 (Anniversary Update) these sub-folders are named:

C:\Public\Libraries
C:\Public\Public Account Pictures
C:\Public\Public Desktop
C:\Public\Public Documents
C:\Public\Public Downloads
C:\Public\Public Music
C:\Public\Public Pictures
C:\Public\Public Videos

These predefined sub-folders are not ordinary folders, and I have noticed a surmountable minor limitation when accessing them from a Linux machine using Samba, as explained below.

If I enable Public Folder Sharing on a Windows machine (‘Turn on sharing so that anyone with network access can read and write files in the Public folders’) and configure the security permissions of the Public folder for Everyone, from another Windows machine in the Workgroup I can copy files to the first machine’s Public folder and default sub-folders. From a Linux machine in the Workgroup I can copy files to the Public folder on Windows machines in the Workgroup but I cannot copy files to the default sub-folders (the Dolphin file manager displays the error message ‘Access denied. Could not write to .‘). However, this is not a big deal because I can copy files into the Public folder itself and into manually created sub-folders in the Public folder.

Automatically log off inactive users in Windows 10

Although I use Linux on my own machines, the family PC in my lounge runs Windows 10. It has five user accounts and the other members of my family never bother to log out (‘sign out’ in Windows 10 parlance), usually leaving a browser window open. If I logged in to my account and clicked on my icon in the top left corner of the Start Menu, ‘Signed in’ was shown below any of the other users who had not bothered to log out. I found this behaviour somewhat frustrating and resolved to configure the PC to log out a user after a specified period of inactivity by that user. Although it is generally not recommended to forcibly logout someone in case e.g. they have a document open, in my family’s case it would be unlikely to cause a problem and is preferable to leaving several accounts unnecessarily active (albeit requiring each user to re-enter their password in order to access the account, as the default setting for ‘Require a password on wake-up’ is ‘Yes’). Below I explain how I configured Windows 10 to log out each user automatically after a period of inactivity.

First I downloaded the application idlelogoff.exe using the following link:

http://ftp.intelliadmin.com/release/idlelogoff.exe

See the Web page Automatically log off inactive users for details of that application.

I used the Windows 10 File Explorer to copy the file to the root directory C:\ and then I created a batch file IDLELOGOFF.BAT by right-clicking on the Windows 10 Start Menu icon, selecting ‘Command Prompt (Admin)’ and entering the following commands in the Command Prompt window:

cd C:\
notepad IDLELOGOFF.BAT

I made the contents of the batch file IDLELOGOFF.BAT the following, so that a user would be logged out automatically after 900 seconds of inactivity in their session:

start /min C:\idlelogoff.exe 900 logoff

and I changed the owner of the batch file to Users by right-clicking on it in File Explorer and then clicking ‘Properties’ > ‘Security’ > ‘Advanced’ > ‘Owner: Change’ and specifying ‘Users’.

Then I created a standard shortcut to the batch file for each user by getting each user in turn to log in to their account and following the instructions on the Web page Windows 10 – How to Run Program Automatically at Startup. Basically, you press the Windows Key and the R key simultaneously and enter ‘shell:startup‘ to open the user’s Start-up folder, and from there you right-click and select ‘New’ > ‘Shortcut’.

After that, the application idlelogoff.exe should be started automatically the next time a user logs in. You can check by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Delete in each user’s session, selecting ‘Task Manager’, clicking on the ‘Processes’ tab and idlelogoff.exe should be in the list of background processes. If you then log in to your own account and click on your account icon in the top left corner of the Start Menu, you’ll notice ‘Signed in’ is shown below the other user’s icon. If you check again after fifteen minutes, you’ll see that the ‘Signed in’ has gone, indicating that the user has been forcibly logged off.

Virus infection in Windows 8.1 Connected Account

Although I use Linux on my own machines, the family PC runs Windows 8.1 (awful OS, by the way). When I bought the PC I installed AVG AntiVirus Free. As a way of thanking AVG for the free application, I allow the application to send anonymous data about detected threats back to AVG so that the company can improve the detection capabilities of its products.

Anyway, a couple of days ago while I was using the family PC to browse the Web, AVG AntiVirus Free popped-up a window informing me it had detected the trojan VBS/Dropper. Whilst it was able to isolate and remove the threat, re-infection kept recurring periodically and frequently. Each time AVG AntiVirus Free was able to isolate and remove the threat. I launched a full scan (including looking inside archive files etc.) of all hard drives several times, but AVG AntiVirus Free always reported that there were no infected files.

Screen snapshot 1 - VBS/Dropper infection

Whenever the AVG AntiVirus Free window popped-up warning that it had detected the trojan, the message showed that the infected file was in a long directory path, and the infected object was named livecomm.exe. Searching the Web showed me that Livecomm.exe is also known as ‘Communications Service’ and is something to do with the Metro application for e-mail (server in the ‘Cloud’). So I launched the Metro Mail application (it was not running previously) and deleted all the e-mails in the Junk, Deleted and POP folders of my Microsoft Hotmail account (the POP folder contains copies of e-mails downloaded by the e-mail client on my main laptop). Lo and behold, there were no more pop-up warnings from AVG AntiVirus Free regarding VBS/Dropper. Presumably one of the deleted unread e-mails or unread junk e-mails either contained an infected attachment or a link to an infected remote file.

I’m posting this because I did not find anything on the Web regarding this phenomenon, and it looks to me like a problem that occurs specifically on Windows 8/8.1 when a user has a Windows account on the PC that is connected to his/her Microsoft e-mail account (what Microsoft refers to as ‘Connected Account’). If I understand the design correctly, the LiveComm.exe service communicates with remote servers in the ‘Cloud’, so I assume this is another pathway for virus infection in Windows 8 and above that users need to be aware of.

The best way to dual boot Linux and Windows

I’m going to explain how to configure your PC in order to dual boot Linux and Windows Vista or Windows 7, assuming Windows is already installed.

If you already have Windows Vista or Windows 7 installed in a single partition, then the method described below is the best way of ensuring that your Windows installation will still be bootable even if the Linux installation or GRUB bootloader become damaged in future.

Furthermore, if your PC has a hidden factory restore partition for Windows, the method described below is the best way of ensuring that you will still be able to recover Windows in future using that hidden partition. The reason why this is the best method is because it does not alter the contents of the MBR (Master Boot Record), which, in addition to the Windows bootloader, may contain code created by the manufacturer to boot the hidden factory restore partition instead of the Windows Vista/7 partition if it detects that you pressed a defined key or keys while the PC is booting. If the contents of the original MBR are overwritten — even if it is only by using the Bootrec.exe tool on a standard Windows Vista/7 Installation DVD — then the manufacturer’s code will no longer be in the MBR and so it will no longer be possible to boot the hidden factory restore partition by pressing the key(s) specified by the manufacturer.

Note also that some Windows applications can make a PC using GRUB 2 unbootable if GRUB 2 is installed in the MBR. See the blog article Windows applications making GRUB 2 unbootable for details. The method described below does not install any GRUB 2 code in the MBR, and thus it will avoid this problem.

So, to reiterate, the method described below avoids two potential major problems: 1) it avoids the possibility of making a Windows factory restore partition unusable; 2) it avoids the possibility of Windows applications overwriting some of the GRUB 2 code.

If you already have Windows installed, the procedure to prepare the PC and install Linux is divided into the following three main stages.

Stage 1: Reduce the size of the existing Windows partition

Do not use the partition managers Parted, GParted or KDE Partition Manager to reduce the size of the existing Windows partition, or you will damage your Windows installation.

Step A: Use the Windows defragmenter or a third-party defragmenter to defragment the Windows partition.

Step B: Use Windows’ Disk Management to shrink the partition (see Resize a Partition for Free in Windows 7 or Vista). The problem with this method is that Windows will only shrink the partition until it reaches the MFT (Master File Table), which means there may be free space in the Windows partition that you would have wanted to use in a Linux partition but cannot. However, if you are satisfied with the resulting size of the Windows partition then you can skip Step C below and proceed directly to Stage 2.

Step C: If you cannot shrink the Windows partition to the size you want by using Windows’ Disk Management, then you need to move the MFT (see Working Around Windows Vista’s “Shrink Volume” Inadequacy Problems). Basically you need to download a tool such as PerfectDisk (it has a free trial period) that will defragment the Windows partition and move the MFT in the process.

Stage 2: Create the new partitions for Linux

Boot a LiveCD or LiveDVD which has the partition editor GParted on it, and run GParted to create and format partitions for Linux (for example /, /boot, /home and swap) in the free space you created in Stage 1 above. I prefer to use GParted to create the partitions before running the Linux distribution’s installer, rather than using a partitioning tool integrated into the Linux installer itself. GParted has more functionality and enables better control over the partitioning process than a partitioning tool incorporated in the Linux distribution’s installer. Also, I have found on some occasions that installation of some Linux distributions fails if using the partitioning tool integrated in the Linux installer, but is successful if the partitions were created beforehand.

SystemRescueCD is a good LiveCD to use for running GParted, but any LiveCD/DVD which includes GParted will suffice. You can download the ISO file from the SystemRescueCd Web site http://www.sysresccd.org/Main_Page.

It is only possible to have up to four primary partitions on a hard disk, so, depending on the Linux partitions you decide to create, it is possible that you will need to create an extended partition containing logical partitions. If, for example, your hard disk has a hidden Windows factory restore partition and a partition for Windows itself, and you decide you want to have /boot and /home on separate partitions to the root directory, then one of many possible partitioning schemes would be:

– the hidden Windows factory restore partition (a Primary partition)

– the Windows partition (a Primary partition)

– the /boot partition (a Primary partition)

– an Extended partition containing the following Logical partitions:

– the swap partition

– the / (root) partition

– the /home partition

For example, on my main laptop I created and formatted the partitions /dev/sda3 to /dev/sda7 as follows:

/dev/sda1 – the hidden Windows factory restore partition

/dev/sda2 – the Windows C: drive partition

/dev/sda3 – the Linux /boot partition

/dev/sda4 – an Extended partition containing the following Logical partitions:

/dev/sda5 – the swap partition

/dev/sda6 – the / (root) partition

/dev/sda7 – the /home partition

Note that it is not essential to have /boot, / and /home in different partitions; they could all be in the same partition. However, I would recommend that at least /home be given a separate partition, so that personal files (videos, music, documents, etc.) would not be overwritten if you were to re-install Linux at some point.

You are free to choose your own partitioning scheme, but I create the Linux partitions in the order shown above so that I can assign specific sizes to the /boot, swap and / partitions, leaving the remainder of the disk space free for the /home partition.

If you do decide to put /boot on its own partition, it only needs to be small (I make it around 100 MB). On my laptop the /dev/sda4 Extended partition is around 143 GB so I created a partition of 60 GB for / (root) — which is more than ample — and a partition for /home using the rest of the available space on the laptop’s 320 GB hard disk. You’ll have to decide on the size of these partitions based on the size of the hard disk and the root partition’s space requirements recommended by the Linux distribution’s developers.

If you do not need Linux to be able to hibernate (‘suspend-to-disk’) then a swap partition of 512 MB would be sufficient for the typical desktop PC, especially when the latest PCs come with 4 GB or more RAM. Some people do not even bother having a swap partition at all with such large amounts of RAM. But if you do want Linux to be able to hibernate then try to find out if the Linux kernel which you will be installing was compiled with in-kernel LZO compression algorithm support (LZO compression algorithm support must not be compiled as a module). If the kernel was compiled with in-kernel LZO compression algorithm support then make the size of the swap partition the same as the RAM size, which is more than enough. For example, as my laptop has 4 GB of RAM I created /dev/sda5 as a 4 GB partition. If LZO compression algorithm support was not compiled into the kernel and you do not know how to rebuild the kernel after installing Linux then you will have to make the swap partition bigger than your RAM size (my guess would be at least 1.5 times the size to be on the safe side).

As to the choice of file system, I format /boot, / and /home as ext4 but you can choose a different native Linux file system if you want. You cannot use Windows’ FAT or NTFS for these Linux partitions.

Stage 3: Install the GRUB bootloader and Linux

Boot Windows Vista/7 and download the freeware tool EasyBCD from the NeoSmart Web site (you might like to make a small donation, to help the developer). You will need to download EasyBCD version 2 and upwards if you want to install a Linux distribution that uses GRUB 2; it is available to download from http://neosmart.net/dl.php?id=1. If you are going to install a Linux distribution that uses GRUB Legacy then the current version of EasyBCD should work too. Follow the instructions on the EasyBCD site on how to install Linux (http://neosmart.net/wiki/display/EBCD/Linux). N.B. You will reach a point in the Linux installation process when the Linux installer allows you to make a choice of where to install the GRUB bootloader: in the MBR (Master Boot Record) of the HDD or in the first sector of the Linux boot partition. You must select the latter, not the MBR. If the Linux installer offers you the option of installing GRUB to e.g. /dev/sda then that would install GRUB in the MBR, because no partition is specified. Make sure you specify the partition that will contain the /boot directory (/dev/sda3 in my particular case). If you created a separate partition for /boot then GRUB will be installed on that separate partition, whereas if you did not create a separate partition for /boot then GRUB will be installed on the partition containing the root directory.

The result of Stage 3 will be that, when you boot your PC, the Windows Vista/7 bootloader will load the GRUB bootloader, and the GRUB bootloader will load Linux. This process is called ‘chainloading’. When you boot the PC you will first see the Windows bootloader menu, and you can select Windows or Linux from it. If you select Linux then you will see the GRUB menu and you can select Linux from that menu, which will boot the distribution.

Whilst chainloading GRUB 2 from the Windows bootloader is more long-winded than booting GRUB 2 directly, you can now use Linux and Windows safe in the knowledge that GRUB 2 will not be overwritten by any Windows applications, and that a Windows factory restore partition will be bootable in an emergency.

A corner case

EDIT (June 21, 2012): A note about a ‘corner case’. This will only apply to a very small minority of users, and then probably only to some users of Gentoo Linux (in Gentoo Linux it is possible to have both /boot/grub/ and /boot/grub2/ simultaneously). If you select ‘GRUB2’ in the pull-down menu in the current version of EasyBCD (2.1.2), EasyBCD actually searches the sub-directories under /boot/ to find the GRUB 2 core.img file, and puts an entry in the Windows BCD pointing directly to that file, i.e. EasyBCD ignores the boot sector of the Linux boot partition. Therefore, when you select ‘Linux’ in the Windows boot manager’s menu, the Windows boot manager does not launch the GRUB code in the boot sector of the partition on which /boot/ resides, it launches the core.img file directly. Now, if your boot partition happens to have both the sub-directories /boot/grub/ and /boot/grub2/, and they both contain a GRUB 2 file core.img, EasyBCD 2.1.2 will create a BCD entry pointing to the one under /boot/grub/ rather than the one under /boot/grub2/. This may or may not be what you want. If you want GRUB 2 to use the core.img under /boot/grub2/, the workaround in EasyBCD 2.1.2 is to select ‘GRUB Legacy’ in the EasyBCD pull-down menu and specify the boot partition. This is counter-intuitive, but it forces EasyBCD to create an entry in the BCD that points to the boot sector of the boot partition instead of the core.img file in a sub-directory of /boot/ on that partition. The GRUB 2 code in the partition’s boot sector will then execute the core.img file in the required sub-directory. This workaround only works if the Linux boot partition is on the same drive as the Windows partition. The developer of EasyBCD will be updating EasyBCD to look for a core.img file in /boot/grub2/ before /boot/grub/, rather than the other way around, if they both exist when you select ‘GRUB2’ in the EasyBCD pull-down menu.

EDIT (September 5, 2012): The EasyBCD developer has fixed EasyBCD a) to cater for core.img being either in /boot/grub2/i386-pc/ or in /boot/grub/, and b) to look for core.img in /boot/grub2/ before looking for it in /boot/grub/. The version with the fix, EasyBCD 2.2 Beta – Build 179.exe or later, can be downloaded from NeoSmart Technologies’ EasyBCD Support Forum. I’ve tried it and it works!

EDIT (January 28, 2015): In October 2013 the GRUB 2 directory in Gentoo was changed from /boot/grub2/ to /boot/grub/, so the above two comments are redundant and you can ignore them.

Make sure you read the EasyBCD FAQ page

EDIT (September 5, 2012): Make sure you read the EasyBCD FAQ page. For example, it states that, to date, EasyBCD does not support the EFI/UEFI, only the traditional PC BIOS.

EDIT (December 18, 2013): According to the NeoSmart Knowledgebase: “As of EasyBCD 2.2, EFI/UEFI and GPT disks are fully supported, but some options may not be compatible with EFI machines.“. I have not tried Version 2.2 or above of EasyBCD with EFI/UEFI and GPT disks, so cannot corroborate this.

EDIT (June 26, 2015): Make sure the partition containing the Linux boot directory is a Primary partition, not a Logical partition. This is because of a Windows limitation.